"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
Australia, under lockdown, sees worrying jump in COVID-19 cases
Australia's two largest states reported sharp increases in new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a blow to hopes that lockdown restrictions would be lifted with more than half the country's population under stay-at-home orders. New South Wales (NSW) state, home to the country's most populous city Sydney, reported 110 new cases, up from 78 the day before, nearly four weeks into a lockdown of the city and surrounding areas to contain an outbreak of the virulent Delta variant.
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19 Vaccine Success Could Be Measured With One Number
The term correlate of protection doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s one of the sexiest concepts in the field of vaccinology. Correlates are biological benchmarks—measurements of a single immune molecule or cell—that can show that a vaccine is achieving its desired effect. With a correlate in hand, researchers can confirm how well a shot is working and identify the rare individuals in whom it doesn’t take; they can suss out the need for boosters and fast-track the development of new vaccines. At their most powerful, correlates of protection boil down the complexities of an immune response to a single value—one that can confidently affirm that a person won’t get infected or seriously sick. “It’s kind of a magic number,” Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, told me. “It’s the big holy grail,” Emory University’s Sri Edupuganti says. “It’s what we dream about,” Cornell’s Sallie Permar told me last month.
Americas are facing pandemic of the unvaccinated, PAHO says
The Americas are facing a pandemic of the unvaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, as it warned that countries with low inoculation rates are seeing increases in COVID-19 and repeated a call for vaccine donations. "We face a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and the only way to stop it is to expand vaccination," PAHO director Carissa Etienne said at a weekly briefing. "Vaccines are critical, even if no vaccine is 100% effective."
France forced to soften rules after coronavirus green pass backlash
The French government, which last week introduced some of Europe’s toughest measures against COVID-19, has been forced to row back on some restrictions following a pushback from industries and street protests. Among the new rules, French President Emmanuel Macron sought to turbo-drive vaccinations by making proof of vaccination or immunity mandatory to enter cafés, restaurants and a range of other venues this summer. The scheme, which goes further than other big EU countries, was introduced to help break a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in France, driven by the more contagious Delta variant. On Monday, the government spokesperson Gabriel Attal warned that the increase in cases was “stratospheric” after France’s incidence rate increased by 125 percent in a week.
More than 91 million live in US counties with high Covid-19 infections. It's time to reset and put masks back on, expert says
With the highly contagious Delta variant spreading, particularly among unvaccinated Americans, it may be time for much of the country to put masks back on, experts said. "We are at a very different point in the pandemic than we were a month ago," Dr. Leana Wen told CNN on Tuesday. "And, therefore, we should follow the example of LA County and say that if there are places where vaccinated and unvaccinated people are mixing, then indoor mask mandates should still apply." Los Angeles County reinstated a mask mandate over the weekend, requiring masking indoors regardless of vaccination status.
New York requiring vaccine or testing for workers in city hospitals, clinics
New York City will be requiring public health employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is expected to announce the new policy on Wednesday. It will affect the more than 42,000 people who work for the public hospital system in the city, the mayor’s spokesperson said on Tuesday, The New York Times reported. The policy will apply to the 10 percent of city government workers who work in the 11 hospitals in the public hospital system.
Community Activities
'A form of brainwashing': why Trump voters are refusing to get a vaccine
In downtown Little Rock, a chorus echoes around the room at Willy D’s Rock & Roll Piano Bar as groups of friends clutching beers and each other sing along to the soul hit “Stand By Me”. Yet far from standing together, the capital of Arkansas is deeply divided over how to deal with a resurgence of Covid-19. Cases are increasing, hospitals are filling up and health officials are struggling to convince residents in the city and across the state to be vaccinated. The pace of vaccinations in US states has become starkly correlated with politics, with Republican voters less likely than Democrats to have a jab, just as they are more reluctant to wear a mask or observe social distancing.
More than 1.5 MILLION children around the world lost a parent, grandparent or caregiver due to COVID-19, study finds
More than 1.5 million children lost a parent, grandparent or primary caregiver due to COVID-19, a new study estimates. Researchers at the CDC and Imperial College London made this estimate based on Covid mortality and fertility statistics in 21 nations. In the U.S., more than 110,000 children lost their parents or primary caregivers. The researchers say support is urgently needed for these children, who face higher risks to their health, safety, and wellbeing
White House has held discussions with Fox News over its Covid-19 coverage
The White House is trying to fix the problem of slowing Covid-19 vaccinations by engaging with an unlikely source: Fox News. The network, which Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch has called the "loyal opposition" to President Joe Biden's White House, has been a hub for vaccine hesitancy and outright hostility. As the pandemic has gone on, and Covid-19 vaccinations have slowed, vaccine resistance among Republicans -- the Fox News audience base -- has been a recurring theme, leading many observers to scrutinize Fox's coverage.
US life expectancy falls by more than a year due to Covid-19 pandemic, CDC study says
Life expectancy in the United States fell by a year and a half in 2020 primarily due to increases in death due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to early data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "U.S. life expectancy at birth for 2020, based on nearly final data, was 77.3 years, the lowest it has been since 2003," researchers at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics wrote in a new report published on Wednesday.
My uncle died of Covid-19 before he could get a vaccine in Kenya, and I got mine in a US drugstore. This is what vaccine inequality looks like
Every time I see a call from home, my heart sinks. I always fear that they're ringing to say that my grandmother has died. She has been on a ventilator for four weeks and my anxiety is near breaking point. The dreaded call could come at any time: Covid-19. Again. Even at 96, my Kenyan grandmother was among hundreds of millions in the developing world who was not vaccinated until recently because rich nations have hoarded most of the available shots. Though I'm more than 60 years younger than her, I was fully inoculated by April because I was living in the United States, where anybody over 12 can get a vaccine if they want one.
COVID Vaccines And Infertility? How Misinformation Spreads In 6 Steps : Shots - Health News
Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines can appear almost anywhere: from an uncle's Facebook post to a well-trusted news commentator. But where does it come from, and why do some myths spread further than others? With the help of the internet research firm Graphika, NPR analyzed the rise of one persistent set of lies about COVID-19 vaccines: that they can affect female fertility. Despite a mountain of scientific evidence showing the vaccines are safe and effective, the false information persists.
Covid: The Mexican villages refusing to vaccinate
In November Pascuala Vázquez Aguilar had a strange dream about her village Coquilteel, nestled among the trees in the mountains of southern Mexico. A plague had come to the village and everyone ran to the forest. They hid in a hut under a tall canopy of oak trees. "The plague couldn't reach us there," Pascuala says. "That's what I saw in my dream." A few months later the pandemic had engulfed Mexico and thousands of people were dying every week. But Coquilteel and many small, indigenous towns in the state of Chiapas were left relatively unscathed. This has been a blessing but it also presents a problem.
More Than 200 Facebook Groups Have Been Actively Circulating Coronavirus Vaccine Misinformation
After President Biden came down hard on Facebook last week over coronavirus vaccine misinformation, the company responded with almost equal force, insisting in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t responsible for how that type of content has spread on the web. But new research released Tuesday suggests Facebook does indeed remain a place where such misinformation is circulating: Media Matters for America, a liberal tech watchdog organization, says it has found 284 active private and public Facebook Groups currently distributing vaccine misinformation, more than double the amount the researchers found in April. Over a half million users belong to these groups.
Working Remotely
Working From Home Is a Risk for U.K. Public Finances, Watchdog Group Says
Britain’s public finances could take a hit from the a permanent shift toward working from home, the government’s independent budget watchdog said. “Our feeling is that it will be somewhat less government-revenue rich than office working,” said Andy King, a member of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said at a Parliament hearing in London on Wednesday. “If you think about spending less on commuting, cafes and restaurants and spending more on heating homes or buying fans during the summer, or spending more on your supermarket shop -- all of those things reduce the amount of government revenue per pound of activity.” The remarks are among the first to give an official assessment of how a shift in working culture will affect the economy.
Remote work could save businesses millions of dollars a year
Workers are craving more work-from-home flexibility. A new study shows businesses that embrace the trend could see a significant impact on their bottom line. And they aren't the only ones that would benefit.
Companies that make people return to the office will lose employees
After a year-and-a-half hiatus, many offices will open back up in September. Most companies are asking that employees return on a hybrid basis, meaning they come into the office at least some of the time. But what exactly that will look like is uncertain. What is certain is that more people will work from home than ever before, and this shift has the potential to disrupt everything from physical office space to the way people feel about work. And as US companies face a hiring crisis, companies that don’t offer remote work could find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to recruiting new talent
What's the purpose of the office – and do we still need it?
Now that we’ve seen how we can do our jobs efficiently from home, and found methods that keep us connected to colleagues, what is the office really for – and is it possible to make employees want to be there? It’s a looming question companies are trying to answer. In terms of performance, says Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, an office isn’t necessary for productivity. But just because we don’t need to be in the office to effectively perform work tasks doesn’t mean it’s useless. There are several functions a physical office space can serve, he says, even if people are still getting a lot of their work done from home.
Virtual Classrooms
Online and in-person students in university classrooms cause concerns for teachers, teaching assistants and students
Unions representing faculty, teaching assistants and students at the University of Ottawa are concerned about the effectiveness of teaching students attending classes in-person and online. The Inter-Union Coalition of the University of Ottawa says it believes teachers will not be able to properly engage with students, especially in large classes. Robert Johnson, president of the Association of Part-Time Professors of the University of Ottawa , says the university is offering 30 to 50 per cent of all courses bi-modally this fall and he’s concerned.
Some Parents Pushing For NYC Schools To Offer Fully Virtual Learning This Fall
In New York, there are calls for school officials to have a COVID backup plan before kids head back to school this fall. There's a push to have a fully virtual option available for New York City school students
Public Policies
Pfizer to offer COVID-19 vaccines to African Union through South African partnership
Pfizer and BioNTech will partner with The Biovac Institute, a South African biopharmaceutical company, to manufacture COVID vaccines for distribution within the African Union, the companies announced Tuesday.
US extends coronavirus closures of borders with Mexico, Canada
The United States’ land borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed to non-essential travel for another month, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced, just days after Canada signalled plans to ease restrictions on travel from the US. The restrictions into the US by land or ferry will remain in place until at least August 21, the DHS said on Wednesday.
WHO leader says virus risk inevitable at Tokyo Olympics
The Tokyo Olympics should not be judged by the tally of COVID-19 cases that arise because eliminating risk is impossible, the head of the World Health Organization told sports officials Wednesday as events began in Japan. How infections are handled is what matters most, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech to an International Olympic Committee meeting. “The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted,” he said. The number of Games-linked COVID-19 cases in Japan this month was 79 on Wednesday, with more international athletes testing positive at home and unable to travel.
Maintaining Services
Novartis set to deliver 50 mln CureVac COVID-19 vaccines this year
Novartis is still helping CureVac make COVID-19 vaccines and could expand its capacity to assist other vaccine manufacturers as well, finance chief Harry Kirsch told reporters on Wednesday. "We have started the production as planned. We are planning to deliver 50 million doses this year," Kirsch said of the CureVac deal when asked whether it could instead make its capacity free for others after CureVac said last month its COVID-19 jab was only 48% effective. Swiss drugmaker Novartis also assists Pfizer and BioNTech in making COVID-19 vaccines and can ramp up output for them or others if needed, he said.
Over-18s can now register for Covid-19 mRna vaccine
All adults aged 18 and over can now register for a Covid-19 mRna vaccine from this morning. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Tuesday that registration for the Pfizer and Moderna jabs for anyone over 18 is happening now “because our vaccination programme is ahead of schedule and continues to perform really well”. Almost 5.3 million Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to date, with more than 79 per cent of the adult population partially vaccinated and over 65 per cent fully vaccinated, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said on Wednesday.
Coronavirus Australia: How young Australians in WA are getting Pfizer jab without making appointment
Western Australians turning up without appointment are getting Covid jab. Those not eligible to book under current rollout trying luck in vaccine lottery. WA Health confirmed spare jabs administered to those without appointments. Those who try their luck must be willing to wait in queue until end the day. Spare jabs remaining at mass vaccination centres would otherwise go to waste
States are sitting on millions of surplus Covid-19 vaccine doses
Millions of unused Covid-19 vaccines are set to go to waste as demand dwindles across the United States and doses likely expire this summer, according to public health officials. Several state health departments told STAT they have repeatedly asked the federal government to redistribute their supply to other countries, many of which are facing a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Officials in Washington have rejected those requests, citing legal and logistical challenges. “We’re drowning in this stuff,” said Robert Ator, a retired colonel in the Arkansas Air National Guard who is leading that state’s Covid-19 vaccine distribution drive. “It’s starting to get a bit silly and we want to make sure we’re being good stewards.”
Vietnam produces first batch of Russian COVID-19 vaccine
Vietnam has produced the first test batch of Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund and Vietnamese pharmaceutical firm Vabiotech said on Wednesday, as the Southeast Asian country battles its worst outbreak so far. The first validation samples taken from the batch will be shipped to the Gamaleya Center in Russia for quality control checks, the fund and the company said in a joint statement.
Covid-19: Businesses forced to close as staff are told to isolate
With most lockdown measures lifted in England, businesses might finally be expecting things to be returning to normal. But many have had to temporarily close after their staff were either "pinged" and told to isolate by the NHS Covid-19 Test and Trace app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace directly. How do owners feel about this latest blow to their livelihoods?
Turkey's virus cases nearly twice the low touched in early July
Turkey's daily coronavirus cases rose to 8,780 on Tuesday, nearly double a low water mark touched earlier this month, while 46 new related deaths were logged, according to the government tally. Infections remain well down from a wave in April-May when new COVID-19 cases peaked above 60,000. They fell to 4,418 on July 4 in the wake of a stringent lockdown that ended in mid-May.
Pfizer-BioNTech to produce COVID-19 jabs with S African company
Pfizer and BioNTech have said they struck a deal with South Africa-based company Biovac for the production of COVID-19 vaccines for the African Union (AU). In a statement published on Wednesday, the two companies said Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the last step in the manufacturing process, known as “fill and finish”, of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19 antibodies detected in 67% of India’s population
Covid-19 antibodies have been detected in 67% of the population of India, according to a new survey, indicating how widely the virus spread through communities during the second wave. India’s fourth national sero-survey, which examines the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies either through infection or vaccination, found that 67.6% of the population of more than 1.3 billion has coronavirus antibodies. The survey also demonstrated the slow pace of India’s vaccination programme. Of those surveyed, 62.2% had not been vaccinated, 24.8% had taken one dose and 13% were fully vaccinated. The survey result marks a significant rise from the last such survey which was conducted in December and January and found that just 24% of the population had antibodies
COVID-19 variants develop better lock-picking skills to invade human cells
Like expert lock pickers, COVID-19 variants may be more adept at breaking into and infecting human cells, according to new research conducted by FIU physicists. The variants are able to do this by flexing a spike protein that works like a lock pick, unlocking and slipping into a cell for infection. The better the virus can manipulate the spike protein, the easier time it has accessing the cell and eventually spreading in an unvaccinated population.
SARS-CoV-2: Achilles' heel of viral RNA
The scientists in the COVID-19-NMR consortium, which is coordinated by Professor Harald Schwalbe from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Goethe University, have now completed an important first step in the development of such a new class of SARS-CoV-2 drugs. They have identified 15 short segments of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that are very similar in various coronaviruses and are known to perform essential regulatory functions. In the course of 2020 too, these segments were very rarely affected by mutations.